Con Ed continues oil spill clean-up

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison and environmental contractors have continued a clean up effort this week after insulating oil leaked into the East River when a transformer in a Brooklyn substation failed last Sunday.

Spokesperson Allan Drury told Town & Village that the utility has removed 560 gallons of the oil from the water, and Con Edison is also removing soil from the substation that has soaked up oil from the spill.

Since heavy rain is forecast for this weekend, Con Edison will also be securing the impacted area around the transformer so there is no additional saturation that could cause more oil to seep into the river.

Con Edison is working to remove the damaged transformer and expects to replace it with a new unit by next week.

Continue reading

Oil spills into East River after Con Ed transformer failure

May11 Con Ed

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A failure of equipment at a Con Ed substation in Brooklyn has led to a so far unknown amount of oil to leak into the East River.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been responding to the problem since it was reported on Sunday afternoon, though as of Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear if the substance, dielectric fluid, was still leaking into the river in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The fluid, which is used to insulate transformer cables, is a kind of mineral oil, so “It’s not like sludge or petroleum,” said Coast Guard Public Affairs Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy. However, she added, “It’s still not native to the environment it’s leeching into.”

Additionally, while the Coast Guard is not aware of just how much of the oil has been spilled so far, she referred to the failure of a Con Ed transformer that led to the incident as “catastrophic.

“The transformer is caput,” she added.

Continue reading

Gas finally back on at Frank’s

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Frank’s Trattoria, the First Avenue restaurant and pizzeria that had been operating without gas for eight weeks, finally got it switched back on. The gas came back on last Wednesday afternoon, which meant that once again the owners, the Pino family, were able to make pizza and other foods that couldn’t be prepared efficiently using just electric stoves.

Restaurant manager Marcello Vasquez told Town & Village once the gas came back on at around 2 p.m. word quickly got around and the restaurant got busy again.

Continue reading

First Avenue restaurant hasn’t had gas in eight weeks (UPDATED)

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Frank’s Trattoria on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

UPDATE at 3 p.m.: According to the manager, the gas was turned on at 1 p.m. today and pizza is once again available.

By Sabina Mollot

At a pizzeria and restaurant across from Peter Cooper Village, a gas shutdown is responsible for taking the business’s bread and butter for the past eight weeks.

That’s when the gas was shut off at Frank’s Trattoria by Con Ed, and since then the First Avenue business has been able to cook some of its dishes after bringing in four electric stoves, although pizza still can’t be prepared there. A manager, Marcello Vasquez, told Town & Village pizza accounted for close to half of Frank’s business. As for the other meal options, the restaurant’s lost business there too because it takes longer to cook with the electric stoves and customers aren’t always willing to wait, Vazquez explained.

He added that the problem started when a building on the corner of East 21st Street had a gas leak on December 18, leaving the restaurant, between East 21st and 22nd Streets, with inadequate gas to cook with. The owners called Con Ed who said the leak was coming from Frank’s and said the restaurant needed a new meter. The gas was then shut off.

But Vazquez now believes it was a mistake to call Con Ed instead of first calling a plumber. The restaurant did later have a plumber come and replace the pipes. The employee said on Friday he was since told that the gas could come back on Monday or Tuesday. “But,” he added, “we already have seven weeks. This is crazy.”

Continue reading

Con Ed driver who fatally hit woman from Stuy Town found guilty of careless driving

Driver sues DMV over agency taking too long to restore license

Four days after Stella Huang was hit by a Con Ed truck in 2013, the area at 16th Street and Avenue C is coned off. At that time, a streetlight there was broken. (Photo by Lawrence Scheyer)

Four days after Stella Huang was hit by a Con Ed truck in 2013, the area at 16th Street and Avenue C was coned off. At that time, a streetlight there was broken. (Photo by Lawrence Scheyer)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Con Edison employee who fatally struck an elderly Stuyvesant Town resident on Avenue C at East 16th Street in 2013 had his license revoked this past August as a result of the incident. He’s since filed a lawsuit because he felt that the Department of Motor Vehicles wasn’t processing his application to reinstate his license quickly enough.

Streetsblog NYC reported on Tuesday that the driver, Andrew Franco, was found guilty of careless driving, meaning that 88-year-old Stella Huang likely had the right of way when Franco hit and killed her around 5:15 p.m. on November 27, 2013. The Daily News reported that the decision was only handed down this past August, almost three years after the accident, following multiple hearings and an appeal, and that Franco filed the lawsuit against the DMV last Friday.

Continue reading

Stuy Town gets city’s first solar-powered bus shelter

Mar24 Solar powered bus shelter

Solar-powered bus shelter at Avenue C and 16th Street (Photo courtesy of DOT)

By Sabina Mollot

The city has installed its first solar-powered bus shelter, with a location outside Stuyvesant Town picked as the place for a pilot program.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, the project was being funded not by the city but a Paris-based company that runs outdoor advertising campaigns called JCDecaux. If the lighting works out well, the company will also pay for other transitions to solar panel-powered lighting at non-powered shelters throughout the city as part of a franchise agreement.

Currently, JCDecaux is responsible for 3,000 bus shelters throughout the five boroughs as well as 300 newsstands. The company is now in its 10th year of partnership with the city and handles installation and maintenance of street furniture.

Meanwhile, the new lighting outside Stuyvesant Town at the shelter on Avenue C and 16th Street comes two and a half years after an elderly woman was fatally struck nearby by a Con Ed truck. The woman, 88-year-old Stuyvesant Town resident Stella Huang, had attempted to cross the street in the dark.

Continue reading

Two ST buildings left with no gas due to leak

By Sabina Mollot

Since October 31, a gas leak at 272 and 274 First Avenue has left residents without gas in their buildings. The laundry room has been out of use as well since then.

In a flyer that was posted by CompassRock on November 4, management explained that the shutdown was done by Con Ed so emergency repairs could be conducted on the main gas line.

The note to residents went on to say management was working with the utility to ensure that gas would be restored “as safely and as quickly as possible.”

However, the memo also said that gas isn’t expected to be turned on again until Con Ed approves each apartment line after repairs.

Sidney Alvarez, a spokesperson for Con Ed, said on the 31st, the utility had been called about a gas odor and upon arrival, inspectors found that there was a gas leak on the extension service traced to a gas meter room.

Continue reading

Con Ed settles over accusations of sexual harassment, inequality

Con Edison building at 4 Irving Place

Con Edison building at 4 Irving Place

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison has agreed to a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to resolve accusations of ongoing discrimination and sexual harassment against women working in field positions for the company.

The agreement requires that Con Ed reserve up to $3.8 million that will be distributed to over 300 female workers employed in field jobs through a claims process administered by the EEOC and the attorney general. A representative from Con Edison said that the utility had voluntarily entered into the settlement agreement to resolve the investigations that began in 2007 and the agreement resolves the investigation without findings of wrongdoing. However, complaints alleged that the company failed to take effective action to improve or prevent the discriminatory conditions. The women in field positions even reported that they faced retaliation when they complained to supervisors or to Con Edison’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion about their work conditions.

“I worked at Con Edison for thirteen years, primarily as an Inspector in the field,” Con Ed Inspector Kawana Howard said. “I loved my job, was good at what I did and took pride in the fact that I was helping to keep our city running. Yet over the years I faced gender-based discrimination from my some of my male supervisors and co-workers and was retaliated against when I complained, ultimately culminating in my recent termination.”

Continue reading

Former Con Ed employee indicted for ax attacks, stabbing

NYPD photo of the weapon

NYPD photo of the weapon

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Former Con Ed employee Trevial Terry was indicted last Thursday for stabbing his ex-girlfriend in her office and then attacking two of his co-workers with an ax inside the Con Edison building where he worked. Terry, 40, has been charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with two counts of attempted murder in the second degree, as well as multiple counts of assault and attempted assault in the first degree and attempted assault in the second degree.

According to court records, Terry followed his 36-year-old ex-girlfriend to the Upper East Side building where she worked on June 22 at 2:25 p.m. and after he was allowed into the building’s lobby, stabbed her with a knife at least six times in the abdomen, side and buttocks. The Daily News reported at the time of his arrest that he and the victim, Alicia Sylvia, were in the middle of a custody battle over their child. She was rushed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital in serious but stable condition.

Continue reading

Police arrest Con Ed employee for ax attacks, stabbing

A weapon allegedly used by Trevial Terry (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

A weapon allegedly used by Trevial Terry (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

By Sabina Mollot

Police have arrested a Con Ed employee who allegedly attacked three people on Monday afternoon, including the mother of his child, using an ax.

Trevial Terry, 40, who lives at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, is accused of stabbing the 35-year-old mother of his child at 135 East 64th Street. Officers, when arriving at the scene found the victim in the building’s vestibule bleeding from multiple stab wounds in her stomach and back. She told them that Terry had approached her, pushed her into the building’s vestibule and then stabbed her. She was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital in serious but stable condition.

According to the Daily News, the victim was Alicia Sylvia, and the two were in the midst of a custody battle. She’d been attacked at the building where she works.

Then later, Terry walked into the Con Ed building at 4 Irving Plaza where he’s worked for the past 15 years. His title is commercial service representative for the Department of Energy Services. Once there he headed to the 10th floor office and allegedly pulled out an ax when he saw a 49-year-old colleague and struck him in the face with it. A witness, a 40-year-old man, tried to help the victim, but then was struck in the arm by Terry who police said was using a “pointed tip hammer.”

Terry then attempted to flee by running down the stairs and into the parking lot, where officers arrested him. According to the Daily News, the cops had help from employees who’d chased him out of the building. A Times story stated that when Terry entered the office, he’d asked for a supervisor but was told the supervisor was unavailable. The two victims were taken to Bellevue Hospital where they were both listed in stable condition. Terry was also taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition.

He’s been charged with three counts of attempted murder, six counts of assault and four counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Allan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Ed, said he didn’t know what would make the longtime employee snap and that as far as he knew there had been no prior incidents involving Terry. He said the victims’ injuries were non-life threatening.

An NYPD spokesperson said Terry has no prior arrests, unless they’ve been sealed.

Con Ed employees win industry award for East River fish protection project

Workers install equipment in the East River that reduces the plant’s impact on the  marine life. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed.)

Workers install equipment in the East River that reduces the plant’s impact on the marine life. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

Two Con Ed employees have been recognized for developing a system that protects the fish in the East River from the utility’s steam and electric plant operations.

Gary Thorn, a section manager in Central Engineering, and Brian Brush, senior scientist in Environmental Health and Safety, were the winners of an industry award called the Technology Transfer Award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The pair led a $36 million project to design a system of five screens with fine mesh panels to filter fish, eggs and larvae from the water cooling intake at the East River generating station off East 14th Street. Additionally, while the work had initially been expected to be completed by the end of 2014, it wound up being done over a year ahead of schedule, by the end of 2013. The project started in 2006 with testing and site evaluation and review of technologies.

“A lot of the early work consisted of collection of data like how many fish there were,” said Brush. “It was a good deal of fish, but it’s importance to distinguish that when we say fish the technology also protects eggs and larvae and they’re more abundant than actual fish.”

The screens, along with a fish-return system, reduce the plant’s impact on the river. The fish-return system uses a low-pressure spray to gently remove any aquatic organisms trapped on the screens and return them to the river.

Continue reading

Op-Ed: St. Vartan’s Park should be considered as alternative site for sanitation garage

The Brookdale campus is the city’s proposed site for a sanitation garage. A firm hired by Community Board 6 has recommended Con Ed property. J.G. Collins however suggests a portion of St. Vartan’s Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The Brookdale campus is the city’s proposed site for a sanitation garage. A firm hired by Community Board 6 has recommended Con Ed property. J.G. Collins however suggests a portion of St. Vartan’s Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By J.G. Collins
Town & Village has recently reported on the alternative proposals that city and East Side public officials are considering for a garage that the Department of Sanitation (“DSNY”) has proposed to serve Community District Six.

In reviewing alternatives, it’s important to give due weight to those suggested by Community Board Six, Community District Six residents, neighborhood groups, and individuals who might propose viable options that officials have not have otherwise considered. Community Board Six has already offered wise alternatives by engaging a planning firm. But officials shouldn’t consider these (to be the “only” alternatives. Instead, they should welcome all practicable alternatives to best accommodate the required garage within District Six. (Local officials might even consider sponsoring a design exhibit, and perhaps even offer a small cash prize, for viable alternatives proposed by anyone wishing to take up the challenge.)

As an example of proposals that should be welcomed, consider the black-top and tennis court on the western portion of St. Vartan’s Park, between East 35th Street and East 36th Street, just east of Second Avenue. The space is nearly 70 percent of the 83,000 square feet the DSNY proposes to build, including the “Tunnel Entrance Street” that bifurcates the tennis court and the black top.

If a garage were built on the site of the St. Vartan’s Park tennis court and blacktop, Tunnel Entrance Street between 35th and 36th Street could be eliminated and made part of the building footprint. Alternatively, if traffic required, the street could be left open through to the Queens Midtown Tunnel entry and the street could be converted as an underpass with the garage built above it. (The underpass would be suspended and joined above a base built on the current blacktop and tennis court.)

The current tennis court and blacktop playing area could be replicated in a “sky park” on the roof of the garage and covered with netting, like the Sol Goldman Y rooftop play area, or permanently enclosed, like the “bubble top” play space above the United Nations School. The facility could be made accessible by an elevator and a stairwell.

St. Vartan’s Park has several advantages. First, it has minimal impact on noise and zoning because the area is not as heavily residential as either the Brookdale or the Con Edison sites. The north border, on East 36th Street, has no nearby residences as it sits above the the Queens Midtown Tunnel. East 35th Street, the southern border, is the rear side of St. Vartan’s Cathedral, as well as some apartment buildings, but traffic could be directed so that sanitation trucks never cross in front of them.

Second, the land is already “city-owned,” so the land to build a DSNY garage would come at no additional cost.

Third, construction of a DSNY garage on the St. Vartan’s Park site with a sky park on the roof would actually increase the footprint of the total park space on the site by the addition 3,500 square feet of “Tunnel Entrance Street.” It might be made into a “rain or shine” play area if it is enclosed.

Traffic for the St. Vartan’s Blacktop location is somewhat a problem, but not overwhelmingly so. South- and west-bound sanitation trucks could exit the garage behind St. Vartan’s Cathedral to avoid Queens-Midtown Tunnel traffic and the few residential apartments on East 35th Street. Northbound trucks would avoid tunnel traffic completely by exiting the garage at East 36th Street, where there are no nearby residential buildings, and turning left onto First Avenue to go uptown.

Ingress to a St. Vartan’s garage when the trucks return from their shifts could be limited to East 35th Street, but west of Tunnel Entrance Street (so that trucks don’t pass in front of the apartment buildings on the block) and to East 36th Street via Second Avenue, so as to minimize disturbance to neighborhood residents and the already heavy traffic on East 36th Street west of Second Avenue.

This traffic arrangement would keep sanitation trucks almost entirely away from the entrances to the St. Vartan’s “kiddy park” that would remain intact on the eastern

Con Ed to replace transformer

Con Ed plant on Avenue C Photo by Sabina Mollot

Con Ed plant on Avenue C
(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

No parking on  Ave. C, 14-16th Sts. from Oct. 20-24

By Sabina Mollot

Con Ed announced last week that the utility would be embarking on a project that could last up to three months. The work, which has been described as maintenance, is to replace a transformer at the Avenue C steam plant.

The company had issued a notice on Friday that the work would begin on Monday, October 20 and on three dates, would be conducted between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. This would involve deliveries of heavy equipment and require the use of machinery and cranes. The three nights when work is scheduled to be done are: Thursday, October 23, Friday, October 24 and Monday, October 27.

To accommodate all the heavy equipment as well as an oversized trailer, there will be no parking allowed on Avenue C between East 14th and 16th Streets on both sides from Monday, October 20 to the morning of Friday, October 24.
Con Ed said there would be no service disruptions as a result of the equipment upgrade.

When asked why some of the work had to be done at night, a spokesperson for the utility, Allan Drury, said it’s because of the oversize vehicles that are needed to transport the equipment.

“Traffic issues require the deliveries to be made during off-hours,” he said.

Earlier this month, Town & Village interviewed a Stuy Town resident in a building at 14th Street and Avenue C, who said he’s been plagued for years by work that’s already been getting conducted at the Con Ed facility in the wee hours of the mornings. The work usually involves large equipment being moved around although the majority of the noise comes from oversized trucks entering and exiting the plant’s property.

Since the story ran, the resident, Sherman Sussman, told T&V he’s seen some slight improvement on the weekends, but is still frequently woken up by horns honking and other traffic noise coming from Con Ed during the workweek.

He seemed somewhat hopeful however after getting a notice about the upcoming transformer project from a Con Ed rep.
In a note to Sussman, the rep noted how transportation vendors have been alerted to minimize noise from vehicles idling or backing up in an effort to “be mindful of the community.”

CB6 offers proposal: Sanitation garage could go near Con Ed

BFJ Planning Senior Associate Jonathan Martin discusses an alternative site for the planned Brookdale campus  sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

BFJ Planning Senior Associate Jonathan Martin discusses an alternative site for the planned Brookdale campus sanitation garage. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Members of Community Board 6’s Land Use and Waterfront Committee recently learned of a new proposal concerning the garage that the Department of Sanitation wants to build on East 25th Street between First Avenue and the FDR; a plan that presents the possibility of building the facility near the Con Edison plant at East 15th Street and Avenue C.

This proposal came from BFJ Planning, a consulting firm that CB6 has hired to come up with other options for the Brookdale Campus, which will be vacated when Hunter College moves the current program uptown, as well as to come up with an alternative spot for the sanitation garage.

BFJ Planning Senior Associate Jonathan Martin presented the preliminary proposal, which had been shown to the board’s steering committee for the sanitation garage last month, at the Land Use and Waterfront Committee’s monthly meeting last Wednesday. Martin focused on the rationale behind the alternative location for the facility.
He acknowledged that DSNY’s plan is partially understandable.

“They want to put their trucks near the service area,” he said. “At the moment the trucks are six miles away but the Brookdale site is two miles away.”

He then explained that one possibility they are exploring in their alternatives is space near the Con Ed plant next to Stuyvesant Town, which would still be near the community district’s service area.

Unlike the Brookdale Campus, however, which will revert back to the city once Hunter College vacates the site, the Con Edison site is not city property. This means that to even consider building a garage on the site, the city would have to acquire the property from Con Edison first.

Aside from this obstacle, Martin explained that the plan would involve relocating John J. Murphy Park up to space which is now surface parking for Con Edison. At that point, the space then becomes open to other uses and in an overlay, Martin showed that DSNY’s plans for the garage fit neatly on top of the space. The potential Con Edison space is actually longer than the Brookdale site, which would offer various opportunities.

“The structure wouldn’t have to go up five stories like the building they’ve proposed,” Martin explained.

Committee members and residents of the surrounding community are opposed to the garage at the Brookdale site primarily because of the potential garage’s proximity to a number of hospitals and healthcare facilities but traffic and noise are also a concern, and Stuyvesant Town resident and committee member Larry Scheyer noted that the latter would be a problem at the Con Edison site as well.

“Many parts of the day have that area gridlocked,” he said. “Add hundreds of sanitation trucks with no other way to get in and out, it would be a nightmare.”

When asked if DSNY had considered the Con Edison site for the garage, DSNY spokesperson Keith Mellis only said that the Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed garage would include a discussion of alternatives that Sanitation has investigated.

Gashouse Gang honors Stuy Town with name

One of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s junior teams has chosen its name based on where the majority of its players are from. See story on Page 5. (Photo by Tomoe Mattiello)

One of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s junior teams has chosen its name based on where the majority of its players are from. (Photo by Tomoe Mattiello)

Whenever one of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League teams is asked to choose a name the usual inclination is to immediately choose Yankees or Mets before another team has a chance. This year one of the juniors teams wanted something different. With most of the players born and raised in Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town and with their little league years coming to a close, it was decided they wanted a name which would pay homage to their place of origin.

“Keith Kelly actually came up with the name,” stated Gashouse Gang Manager Tim McCann.“Keith is our resident historian and was aware of the properties’ history before these now iconic buildings were built to supply affordable housing for the returning G.I.s of World War Two.”

Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village was long known as the Gas House District as early as 1842. After the first gas tank was constructed, huge gas holding tanks soon followed and unfortunately occasionally leaked, making the area an undesirable place to live. To make matters worse, crime was high and it also just happened to be the home base of the Gashouse Gang, which committed a reported 30 holdups every night on East 20th Street alone around the turn of the century.

“I’m not quite sure if the team was aware of the notoriety of Gashouse Gang and the gang’s history but either way, the team is aptly named,” said McCann.